[dc]P[/dc]astor search is a perilous process. Twice I’ve seen a transition fail because the Pastor Search Committee took shortcuts. Both Transition Pastors did a fine job. Thorough assessments were made, problems were resolved, new leaders were trained and sound strategic plans were put in place. But the Pastor Search Committees ignored the process and went off the reservation. One decided against visiting the Pastor candidate’s current church that a 2 hour drive. The other didn’t verify that their candidate would implement the church’s mission, vision and strategy.
Two churches suffered serious setbacks. One is still reeling five years later.
Interims go to die in Pastor Search Committees
I see three reasons why the search process breaks down. First, Pastor Search Committees are autonomous. Second, churches tire of the transition process. Third, church members fall prey to the Endowment Effect.
Pastor Search Committees must be autonomous
The first reason for failure is because the Pastor Search Committee must be autonomous.
The Transition Pastor has a great deal of authority, more than the typical Interim. This is necessary because Transition Pastors go to highly dysfunctional churches. The governing documents in these churches often hinder solving the problem! See this post about the need for extraordinary authority and and this post about what often happens when the Transition Pastor does not have the needed authority.
When it comes to the Pastor Search Committee, the Transition Pastor relinquishes that authority. In fact, TMG affiliates are not even members of the Pastor Search team; they serve as coach for the committee chair and advisors to the group. Once the Transition Pastor has trained them, authority is invested in the chairperson. If you’re serving in an interim position and keep your hand on the wheel thru the search process you become responsible for the next pastor’s mistakes!
So we must accept the possibility that the Pastor Search Committee will ignore the training and coaching to go their own way.
But why? What causes Pastor Search Committees to end up overturned in the ditch?
Churches tire of the transition process
The second reason for failure is simple. A thorough transition takes 12 to 24 months. It demands on people’s time. It moves them out of the comfort zone. It leads them in unfamiliar pathways.
People tire. The emotional resources may be depleted. Familiar spiritual disciplines are neglected. The long suffering saints suddenly lose patience. They’ve been waiting and watching with glad anticipation for so long that they can no longer endure.
As the end nears people are tempted to just settle for the first attractive Pastor candidate that comes along.
Churches fall prey to the “Endowment”
I think the third reason why the process fails because of the the “Endowment Effect.”
The Endowment Effect is a theory in behavioral economics explains why people will put a higher value on an item they own than they will for an identical item someone else owns. That $5 treasure picked up at the flea market is suddenly worth $10! This skews how we value things, hindering rational and orderly market behaviors.
A corollary of the Endowment Effect is the “I want it now!” syndrome. When people feel they have been endowed with certain entitlements to goods or services they lose patience and self-control. They become demanding, unreasonable and illogical.
My wife manages a large healthcare business unit that is contracted to administer Medicare in our County. When people enter the enrollment phase they are patient, willing to let the system do its work. They are set up in the system, a social worker is assigned to their case and their medical needs are assessed. This takes a bit of time during which they wait patiently.
But once they are told they are eligible and entitled to certain benefits their patience evaporates. Sweet, reasonable people become demanding, difficult and even abusive to their case workers. It’s mine and I want it now! I’m entitled!
When the Transition Pastor announces that the training and planning steps in the process are over, that the church is now ready for it’s next pastor those sweet, reasonable and cooperative people suddenly want it over and done with. It’s been a year already, and you’re telling me that it can take six months or more to find the right pastor for this church?